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Developing Early Warning System for Peace and Security in Nigeria Essay

1. Brief Demographic Background of Nigeria:

The demographic characteristics of Nigeria set the platform for an understanding of the case for conflict based National early warning system. A historical analysis of major conflicts in Nigeria since independence points to strong linkages to its demographic composition. It has been unarguably regarded as the most populous country in the Africa and also accounts for half of the entire population of West Africa. The last census exercise in 2007 conducted by the Nigeria Population Commision (NPC) put the country’s population at over 140 million.(NPC, 2006).

Politically, it practices a three tier federal system of government comprising the Federal, State and Local Government Councils which implies relative levels of autonomy in governance as well as oversight and control which many political analyst has attributed as a mixture of British Parliamentary and U.S Presidential system of governance. It has 36 states with a Federal Capital Territory at Abuja. These are further sub-divided into 774 semi-autonomous local government councils. For political and economic exigencies of governance and development, it is segregated into what is referred to as six geo political zones which include the North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West.

With over 240 ethnic groups spread across the country, the challenges of representation, equity in political representation as well as economic accessibility has been the bedrock of many diverse conflicts in the country. This is further complicated by the heterogeneous mixture of Christian and Muslim religion greatly polarised between the Christian south and Muslim Northern region. (op cit.)The population of traditional religion is sparsely located across the six geo-political zones of the country.

Despite the immense rich natural resources in the country, crude oil located at the south south, south east and south west geo political zones of the country remain the major revenue source for the country and also the major source of various causative factors of conflict in Nigeria which has led to its reference in many social science research cycles as the ‘resource curse’ to the extent that the country is now considered one of the 20 poorest countries in the world. Over 70% of the population is classified as poor, with 35 percent living in absolute poverty. This is especially severe in rural areas, where social services are limited or non existent.

2. The Peace and Security Dimension in Nigeria:

In contrast, Nigeria’s complex political, socio-cultural and economic diversity has been a source of varied and multiple levels of conflicts and humanitarian crises with implication to sustainable peace, security and development within the country and the West Africa sub region. A retrospection of these conflicts highlights six basic conflict types that have pervaded the country in the last two decades. These include communal conflicts, chieftaincy conflicts, ethno-religious conflicts, oil related conflicts, election related conflicts and agro-pastoralist conflicts.

These conflicts are the outcome of the deep rooted causal factors of poverty, poor/bad governance and inequitable distribution of resources and development across the country. Between 1999 to 2010 for instance there has been an estimated death of 14,000 people from various levels of these conflicts across the country and about 750,000 – 850,000 Internally displaced persons.(Internal Displacement Monitoring, 2007…) Based on the lack of mechanisms to address the root cause of these conflicts, it has continued to reoccur, intensify and impact negatively in Nigerian societies to the extent of creating viscious cycles of violence and complex humanitarian crises. Communities experiencing these conflicts have remained vulnerable and usually face the risks of further conflicts and distablity. Based on the recurrence of these conflicts,the communities have been tagged, ‘flashpoints of conflict’, unusually disaggregated across geo political lines or constellations.

3. The concept of Early Warning for Peace and Security:

Based on the negative impact of conflicts to development and human security, there is increasing paradigm shift from conflict resolution mechanisms regarded as reactive to conflict prevention mechanisms which is seen as more proactive and has the capacity to prevent or mitigate destructive conflict or humanitarian crises globally. As core element of conflict prevention, early warning has increasingly gained prominence, credibility and efficiency as a preventive mechanism and solution to conflicts in societies.

By definition, Early Warning has been described as a process of communicating judgements about threats early enough for decision-makers to take action to deter whatever outcome is threatened; or failing that, to manage events in such a way that the worst consequences are mitigated” (WANEP: 2008).

Dmitrichev Andrei defined it as organizational procedure or mechanism for the structures and systemic collection and analysis of information, and the subsequent communication of results of this analysis to policy makers in a form that would be easily recognized and understood.

The recognition and appreciation of the opportunities inherent in this system resulted in the first organised platform for the systematic development of the early warning system led by the Forum on Early Warning and Early Response (F.E.W.E.R.) in 1997 in response to the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It blossomed to become the largest global network of over thirty five (35) organisations across the world that catalysed the creation of the early warning and response networks in the Caucasus (led by EAWARN/Russian Academy of Sciences), Great Lakes Region of Africa (led by the Africa Peace Forum) and West Africa(led the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding) WANEP.

Further impetus to the adoption and institutionalisation of the early warning system was boosted by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan when he stated that, “For the United Nations, there is no larger goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict. The prevention of conflict begins and ends with the protection of human life and the promotion of human development. Ensuring human security is, in the broadest sense, the United Nations’ cardinal mission. Genuine and lasting prevention is the means to achieve that mission. (Koffi Annan: 2001)

This further gave rise to the UN Security Council Resolution 1624 of 2005 with the following core declarations:

1. Reaffirms the need to adopt a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict and political social crises in a comprehensive manner, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights;

2. Recognises the need to strengthen the important role of the United Nations in the prevention of violent conflicts, and to develop effective partnerships between the Council and regional organisations, in particular the African Union and its sub regional organisations, in order to enable early responses to disputes and emerging crises;

3. Affirms the UN commitment in “supporting regional and sub regional capacities for early warning to help them in working out appropriate mechanisms to enable prompt action in reaction to early warning indicators;

4. Recognises the important supporting roles played by civil society, men and women, in conflict prevention and the need to take into account all possible contributions from civil society;

5. Supporting regional and sub regional capacities for early warning to help them in working out appropriate mechanisms to enable prompt action in reaction to early warning indicators;

6. Promote coordination with regional conflict management machinery in Africa which provide the Security Council with additional reliable and timely information to facilitate rapid decision-making;

7. Strengthen the capacities of civil society groups, including women’s groups, working to promote a culture of peace, and to mobilise donors to support these efforts

(UN: 2005)

4. Developing Institutional Platform for conflict Early Warning System: Reflecting on WANEP-Nigeria’s Experience:

The participation and commitment of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) to the FEWER platform strengthened its capacity and hands on skill for civil society based analysis and response mechanisms towards the prevention or mitigation of conflict especially within the great lake region following the post Sierra Leone and Liberian Conflicts of 90’s. This deepened its regional expertise as the reference point for early warning system in the West Africa sub region and subsequently the network of choice for the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) in the implementation of the regional based ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Network (ECOWARN). The system principally works through three basic components of reporting/data gathering, analysis and information dissemination utilised to facilitate response to issues of peace and security within the ECOWAS sub region.

WANEP became the civil society partner with ECOWAS in the implementation ECOWARN since 2006. As part of the WANEP regional network, WANEP-Nigeria was mandated as the national civil society focal point to report into the online ECOWARN system. Its task was to provide weekly and daily reports to the incidence and situation reporting template as designed into the online system. This was to give ECOWARN an up to date civil society perspective of the peace and human security threats and opportunities in Nigeria.

With the participation of Nigeria in this process came ominous challenges.

1. The first was the pressure from the focal points at Lagos secretariat of WANEP-Nigeria to deliver credible reports in relation to the size of Nigeria

2. With the size of Nigeria, the focal point concentrated in getting information from national newspapers, television and radio

For the focal points who were staff of WANEP, it was included as part of their job responsibility. They relied on making phone calls to members of WANEP at the state levels for local or peculiar peace and security information that was not reported in the national media. However, these information were reluctantly or half-hazardly given and also cost intensive to the staff as they often bore liability for these calls.

This challenge was partially cushioned when ECOWAS resolved to pay reporters communication allowance in 2007/2008. Inspite of this, the feedback from member organizations providing information at the state level was still half hazard and questionable. To redress this challenge, the program team at the national secretariat organized a brainstorm meeting to develop a framework for a workable national early warning system that not only ensures commitment of member organizations to support the system but also is both functional and cost effective. The first trial system was developed for the Nigeria 2007 elections. An Information, Communication and Technology (I.C.T.) consultant was engaged that worked directly with the program team to capture specific indicators to monitor election related conflicts in what was referred to as the ‘election barometer’. The cost of developing the barometer was wholly borne by the secretariat while the election monitoring was performed by staff who volunteered to report into the system as an experiential learning process to enhance their understanding of the EW system.

The experience motivated the secretariat to consciously plan for a conflict intervention proposal which includes an aspect of a sustainable/operational national early warning system. The submission and approval of the proposal by international partners led WANEP-Nigeria to develop the first locally designed and operated conflict focused National Early Warning system.


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